Coverage of the LAUSD by the L.A. Daily News: News or Propaganda?

Photo by Mr Cup / Fabien Barral on Unsplash
This article first appeared on LASchoolReport.com, a nonprofit education news site covering Los Angeles schools and California policy and analyzing where the Golden State fits into the national conversation surrounding K-12 issues
- Los Angeles Daily News

Three weeks after Candi Clark, chief financial officer of the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), spoke at a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board meeting, the Los Angeles Daily News was still describing her appearance as “unannounced”. However, the facts tell a different story. Documents obtained in a Public Records Act request by United Teachers Los Angeles show that the text of a speech was created on a District computer registered to Cheryl Simpson, an “LAUSD budget official” and shared with Clark. Her appearance was definitely not “unannounced” as it is clear that there was some coordination with officials at the LAUSD.

The failure to do any research into the events that lead to Clark’s appearance before the LAUSD Board is journalistic malpractice. However, this is not surprising given that the byline for the article is “Laura Greanias, LA School Report (LASR)”. The LASR was created by Jamie Alter Lynton, a supporter of education privatization, to provide coverage of the LAUSD. Alexander Russo, who “edited LA School Report during its first year of operation”, says that she does not adhere “to the balanced/objective model of journalism”. Lynton’s friendship with former Superintendent John Deasy gave her exclusive access to breaking stories, at least the ones he wanted covered. Apparently, these did not include the scandals swarming around Ref Rodriguez when he ran for a seat on the LAUSD School Board.

Control of the LASR has now passed to The Seventy Four, a site “co-founded by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown, who is part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn tenure protections for teachers in New York.” It “is supported by the Walton Family Foundation, the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund and Bloomberg Philanthropies”, all of whom subscribe to the Betsy DeVos view of privatizing public education. Its staff page currently lists two editors but no reporters.

Had the article in the Daily News been labeled as an editorial or commentary, the paper would have escaped criticism of blatant bias. It did not. The article is specifically listed as “news” without any mention of the ideology of the source or who funded its creation. At least the Los Angeles Times had the decency of printing at the bottom of its articles that Eli Broad was funding their education coverage.

When I asked a Daily News Reporter about the inclusion of LASR articles in the paper, her answer was that the School Report considers itself to be a legitimate news organization. When pressed about their obvious editorial slat, her response was that all newsrooms have some type of bias. I pointed out that her explanation was the same one that Fox News would use.

Just three years ago, the Daily News broke the news about the financial improprieties at El Camino Charter High School. Last year they covered the fact that the North Valley Military Institute was illegally charging students to attend summer school. Neither reporter is currently with the paper. With coverage farmed out to a pro-charter school publication, who will discover the next charter school scandal?

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Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.